Last weekend, I went on an adventure to one of my favorite places to visit. Colorado. I took a long weekend to visit an old friend with one of my new friends. The trip itself did not disappoint. We planned out every little detail of the trip seeing how excited we were about it and we knew we didn’t want to waste a single second of our time. On Thursday evening, we flew in to the Denver Airport and the trip began.
The first thing on the trip was to meet up with our good friend Evan. He moved to Denver almost 18 months ago. Since then, he got accustom to the outdoorsy and active lifestyle and made the most out of exploring his new homeland. So Tim, my new friend, and I had complete trust in him to show us a good time. Although Tim and I are no rookies to the Rocky Mountains, Evan knew a little more about the hidden gems of the Colorado Mountains.
The activities officially began early the next morning. Unfortunately Evan had to work so Tim and I dropped him off at work and then headed to our first adventure. The first adventure on our list was a “short” hike called the Manitou Incline near Colorado Springs, about an hour and a half south of Denver. I say “short” hike because it is less than a mile. Seems pretty easy right? Wrong! This was by far the most difficult part of our Colorado trip. In that short mile or so, the elevation gain was 2,000 ft.!!! That is one hell of an incline. After driving to the area, we immediately knew we were in for trouble. The trail was straight as an arrow and carved up the mountain very steeply. Good thing the trail was nicely kept up with proper steps. It looked as if it were a scary roller coaster with a very big incline in the beginning of the ride. The nervous feeling Tim and I had was similar to the anticipation of an extreme roller coaster.
After we took our first step towards the top, we knew we were in for trouble. Being in good shape myself helped me get through the trail. However, my hiking colleague was hiving some difficulties catching his breathe. Keep in mind we were over 5,000 ft. above sea level so we were at unfamiliar elevation which played a large role in our struggles. Almost exactly an hour after we took our first steps at the bottom we made it to the top. The amount of happiness you get from being one step away from the top of a long and strenuous hike is like nothing else. At that point you know you have it done, you know what needs to be done, and all you have to do is enjoy that last step. The views were amazing from the top. In fact, the views were amazing the whole way up. But at the top is when they’re really worth taking a long look.
Tim and I severely underestimated the difficulty of the hike. Maybe it was because we didn’t want to scare ourselves away from it or be intimidated by the incline. We kept telling ourselves that it is less than a mile, how hard can that be? We were thrilled to get off the mountain. With only little time to celebrate and reflect, it was already time to head to our next adventure.
Next on the list was Garden of the Gods. This is a park that’s been on my radar for quite some time. It’s known for its sacred views of these red rock formations that jut up from the ground. These rock formation look like they have no rhyme or reason why they stick out of the ground the way that they do. This is why they are such a spectacle. Although a little sore and banged up from the incline, we made the short drive over to the Garden of the Gods. Thankfully Garden of the Gods is flat and there are several trails to walk around. It’s more of a park than anything else and that’s all Tim and I could take due to our Jell-O legs from the incline.
The views at the Garden of the Gods was second to none. The way the red rocks come out of the ground is mind blowing and can’t be explained. It was truly amazing to see and I was in awe at the beauty of the formations. The visit to the rocks was short and sweet. You don’t have to spend much time there to fully grasp the incredible nature of the rocks.
Timing wise, our first day worked out perfectly. We did our two adventures for the day and got back to Denver in time to pick up Evan from work. Since Evan was officially off for the weekend at that time, we all three had a good dinner and some drinks and called it a night somewhat early knowing what we had coming for us the next day.
Saturday was our big hike day. Although after what Tim and I went through with the incline, we would beg to differ. However, Saturday was the main event of our trip. It was a 9 hour hike in Breckinridge. To be perfectly honest, I was a little nervous and scared and excited all in one. I was nervous about being too sore from Friday’s adventures to make it up the mountain. The worst thing that I could think of happening is cramping up on the way up and not being able to make it any farther, ruining mine and my friends’ hike. I was nervous about the elevation. The peak of this hike sits just above 12,000 ft. above sea level. For those who are unfamiliar with elevation, that’s a lot!! The year before when we went hiking in Colorado, we hiked up to 11,100 ft. above sea level and I was feeling fairly light headed from the elevation. So another 1,000 ft. or so was making me nervous. However despite these insecure feelings, I was excited more than anything. I was excited to hike with my friends. I was excited to see the amazing views from the top of the mountain and along the way up. I was excited to be in nature and see wildlife that you just don’t get anywhere else. I’ve always wanted to see a moose and we would be in prime moose country. I was excited to explore Breckinridge since it was a new place to me where I had yet to explore at the time. With all of this going on in our heads, our day started at 5 am as we headed to Breckinridge.
The trip to Breckinridge from Denver took just under 2 hours. We left the house at 5 am so we would get to the mountain bright and early. There was plenty of parking at the trail head which is always a good thing for hiking. The temperature was in the low 30s so we were bundled up to start. But as the hike progressed, the sun rose higher in the sky and our bodies warmed up from the hiking. It was so pretty. On the way up we stopped by several little ponds and lakes and waterfalls. Plenty of perfect spots to see a moose, but unfortunately that time never came. Nevertheless, we kept on going up with the beautiful mountains to look at. We took numerous breaks to regroup, catch our breath, hydrate, refuel, and soak in the mountains. Our hike basically followed a waterfall going the whole way up the mountain. At the top of the waterfall was a couple lakes just sitting around 12,000 ft. Those small lakes were our destination. After battling a long battle with exhaustion and the elevation, we finally made it to the top. There were two small lakes where we made it to. And we turned around in bliss and soaked up every second of that moment. We had ourselves a small snack while we watched over the mountains and the lakes. After making it to the top, Tim and I agreed that the incline we did the day before was in fact more difficult on our bodies and may have even helped up prepare for the Breckinridge hike. Maybe not physically prepare us but certainly psychologically prepare us since the incline was more stressful on our bodies. It made the Breckinridge hike seem easier although it was still difficult.
When we got off the mountain we were filled with happiness as the endorphins were pumping throughout our bodies. We quickly looked for the nearest brewery to grab a drink and a bite to eat to celebrate. Luckily in Colorado, it’s not difficult to find a brewery. We refueled our bodies and enjoyed a nice beer or two as we reflected on our hike.
Colorado is such an amazing place and is somewhere I can see myself living for a couple years. The nature and the culture is very attractive and is in tune with my hobbies and inner self. The mountains always leave me in awe and I wish I could be around them all the time. This was Tim and I’s second annual trip to Denver to see Evan and we are already looking forward to our next trip out there.